Silver Screen Cinema

Inside Out 2 Review

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Photo of Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler

Pixar Animation Studios

Rated: PG

96 Minutes

Directed by: Kelsey Mann

Starring: Amy Poehler, Maya Hawke


Inside Out 2 Poster

Far too many movie sequels just take characters audiences like and then have them do pretty much the same things in the second film they did in the first, with the same results. Pixar avoided the sequel rut with its “Toy Story” franchise, keeping a unique premise and set of animated characters fresh through 20 years of sequels. Pixar has now given viewers a sequel to its second most innovative film, “Inside Out.” The sequel has several new characters and locations, many new entertaining puns and sight jokes, and a new emotional crisis that young Riley faces. Ultimately, however, “Inside Out 2” teaches the same old lessons as the first movie. The result is entertaining, especially for those who didn’t see or have forgotten the original. But it doesn’t rank among Pixar’s absolute best.

In “Inside Out 2,” Riley’s core emotions, led by Joy (Amy Poehler), keep her happy and well-adjusted. She’s the star of her school hockey team with two besties for life, teammates Grace and Bree. The three have impressed the

high school coach so much that she invites them to her three-day hockey camp, where they can hone their skills, and the coach can determine who’s ready for the high school varsity. Then a crisis hits, or, rather, two crises. First, Riley learns her friends will be in a different high school, so they vow to treat the camp as one last great fling together. Second and much more serious, puberty hits Riley, as evidenced by an alarm going off on Riley’s control panel inside her emotional headquarters. Joy, Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Tony Hale), and Disgust (Liza Lapira) are stunned by construction crews rapidly and haphazardly remodeling the headquarters.

The group is then stunned by the arrival of Riley’s new emotions. These new emotions are led by Anxiety (Maya Hawke), with the help of Envy (Ayo Edibiri), Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser), and Ennui (Adele Exarchopoulos). As Anxiety explains to Joy, Riley can’t deal with her new set of growing-up issues with just the old emotions that got her through childhood. Instead, Anxiety tries to create a new Riley, whose goal isn’t having fun with her friends but impressing her new coach and teammates and making the high school team. To that end, Riley becomes obsessively driven to emulate the team’s captain, Val (Lilimar Hernandez). Not surprisingly, Joy and the old emotions don’t react well to Anxiety’s taking over. However, before they can do anything, Anxiety has them all thrown down the chute, where they wind up in the Vault. It’s a repository for forgotten characters from Riley’s childhood.

Once the old emotions escape from the Vault, they embark on a quest that’s very similar to the one they went on in the first “Inside Out” movie. This time, their goal is the back of Riley’s mind, where forgotten memories live. Anxiety has banished Riley’s Sense of Self (“I’m a good person”) there, and the old emotions need to retrieve it. Along the way, they encounter obstacles like the “Sar-chasm,” a deep canyon that distorts whatever people shout across it so that the yell sounds sarcastic.

For anyone who hasn’t seen the original movie, “Inside Out 2” seems amazingly creative. However, at its core, the sequel has replaced the first film’s conflict between Joy and Sadness with a similar but lesser one involving Joy and Anxiety. While Anxiety is a visual delight and is perfectly voiced by Maya Hawke, the rest of the new emotions are one-note sight gags. Audiences learn everything there is to know about them in the first minute they are introduced. (I can’t recall anything Envy adds to the movie.) The characters in the Vault are funny to look at but contribute little. My favorite was Pouchy, a talking fanny pack that contains items that might help in a crisis. (Viewers should stick around after the credits to discover Riley’s Deep Dark Secret.) Sadly, there’s no equivalent to Bing Bong from the first movie.

Audiences have learned from watching decades of ensemble films you can make the core group bigger but not necessarily better or more memorable. (Does anyone remember Brad Dexter from “The Magnificent Seven”? I didn’t think so.) In “Inside Out 2,” the filmmakers have taken the first movie’s Fantastic Five and turned them into the Nebulous Nine. In one sense, the resulting chaos is like puberty, as Riley shows in scenes where her emotions change swiftly and wildly. But this chaos doesn’t result in the most coherent filmmaking. I’m also disappointed that the filmmakers set Riley’s puberty-related problems against the relatively trivial backdrop of a three-day hockey camp. In retrospect, that might be the only setting that would enable “Inside Out 2” to keep a PG rating. But there were better conflicts to explore.

Still, I enjoyed “Inside Out 2” for many of the reasons I liked the first movie. The puns and wordplay are first rate, and the animation is superb. And it’s not really a spoiler to mention that the movie ends on a typical Disney warm note. “Inside Out 2” is a movie that kids will love and adults will enjoy. One thing I haven’t mentioned before in this review is a brief cameo appearance by a tenth emotion, Nostalgia (June Squibb). Anxiety dismisses Nostalgia by saying it’s not time for her to appear in Riley’s life for another decade. Adults who see “Inside Out 2” will probably experience their own version of Nostalgia thinking back to the first movie.

In this clip, Riley's old emotions are introduced to the new emotions:

Watch Pixar on Amazon Prime Video:

Inside Out Streaming
The Incredibles Streaming
Monsters Inc. Streaming

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